Kids with autism can easily become overwhelmed by unwelcome sensory stimulation, while also not receiving enough stimulation through other senses. This can feel very stressful, and they may engage in self-soothing behaviors to help them cope. One way that parents can help their kids cope and manage these issues is to engage in sensory play.
By exploring different types of play, autistic kids can discover and develop behaviors that help them to feel better and function more easily as they grow up. Here are a few great activities to try.
If your little one likes to rock back and forth, their sense of balance and motion might be understimulated. That means it’s time to head to the local playground, or out into the backyard. Outdoor swings are a great way to activate that sense of motion in the inner ear while also adding the sensation of moving air on the skin.
Not only do swings provide a soothing sensation, an outdoor swing also gets kids out of their indoor environment. If your child is stressed and acting out, it can be helpful to get them away from source of that stress into a different environment altogether. Swings give them the opportunity to relax in comfortable surroundings that provide a soothing context.
Tweezing Sunflower Seeds
Another great way to self-soothe is to give your child a task to focus on. Having something to focus on helps your little one to block other incoming stimulation, which can have a calming effect. Removing sunflower seeds is relatively simple, but it requires fine motor skills. This makes it great for young kids who aren’t ready for complex tasks, but who still need a challenge to draw their focus sufficiently.
Play-Doh or Kinetic Sand
Our most basic and primal sense is the sense of touch. Feeling different textures and consistencies or manipulating objects can have a very profound effect on our state of mind. For kids with autism, playing with soft and moldable substances like play-doh or kinetic sand can offer the sensory stimulation they need to relax.
Additionally, this gives them a creative outlet. It’s often difficult for autistic children to communicate effectively, and art gives them a way to express themselves. Encourage your child to mold interesting shapes that show how they feel, and what they’re thinking about.
Finger painting is another creative task that does more to engage the visual sense as well as providing tactile stimulation. The smooth feeling of paint gliding over paper, mixing different colors, and creating visually interesting images are all interesting sensory experiences. Of course you don’t need to stop at finger painting. You can use various objects with different textures as painting tools to create new and interesting visuals. Some interesting household objects might be pieces of rope, tennis balls, or sponges. The sky’s the limit!